Here I find myself,
the children's play area of the mall.
Kids screaming, running, laughing.
So much joy
(until it's time to leave).
But while my eyes watch my daughter
as she climbs and falls and tries again,
they also wander to the other adults.
Moms, dads, moms and dads.
Perhaps a nanny, grandmother, or older sister.
They watch the children.
Check their phones.
And occasionally chat and laugh with each other.
"How old is he?"
"Oh, she's so cute!"
But not with me.
I smile at them, inviting conversation
but they turn their heads before a smile is returned.
Deep down, I know, this isn't what it feels like.
I am not being ostracized.
I am paranoid, overreacting, anxious.
I fear they can see my history, my disease.
Mine is an invisible illness.
Yet I fear it is showing now.
A cast, a crutch, an oxygen mask.
Do they see my scars?
They do not know me anymore than I know them and the scars they are hiding.
A mother glances at me sideways.
A flicker of a smile.